Animal Welfare and Sentience

Thank you for contacting me. Animals are sentient beings and the Government has announced it will write this principle into law.

The draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill was published on 12 December. It sets out that the Government "must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy". At the same time, the law will also increase the sentences available to the courts in the most severe cases of animal cruelty to up to five years' imprisonment. Subject to consultation, Ministers will legislate to deliver both aims.

This comes as part of a wider programme of reform to cement the UK's position as a global leader on animal welfare. Other recent steps include announcing plans to make CCTV mandatory in all abattoirs to ensure animals are treated humanely at the end of their lives, banning microbeads that can harm marine life and introducing Europe's most comprehensive ban on the ivory trade, to protect the lives of endangered African elephants.

Once we have left the EU, we could do more. For example EU rules currently prevent us from restricting live animal export or banning the import of puppies under six months.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.